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Denuclearization to be “central issue” at Moon-Kim summit: Blue House, By Colin Zwirko
Three-day event to include live TV broadcasts and visits to major landmarks, restaurants
South Korean President Moon Jae-in plans to discuss denuclearization in depth with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during two days of scheduled meetings this Tuesday and Wednesday, the Blue House chief of staff told reporters on Monday.
In a briefing laying out plans for the upcoming summit, which will run from September 18-20, Presidential Chief of Staff Im Jong-seok said that progress on denuclearization must be made through leader-to-leader discussions.
While the topic had been mostly left to discussions between North Korea and the U.S. in the past, Im said it would “now be a very important central issue” to discuss at the top level and that it would not be possible to resolve merely through working-level talks.
The three most important items on the agenda for the summit, he continued, would be improving inter-Korean relations in accordance with the Panmunjom Declaration, accelerating denuclearization talks with the U.S., and ending inter-Korean military tensions.
On denuclearization, he said the South will do its part to “mediate and accelerate U.S.-DPRK dialogue on denuclearization” and “work for resuming… honest conversation without delay for progress on denuclearization of North Korea and corresponding actions by the U.S.”
Later on Monday, President Moon elaborated on his self-described role as mediator between the North and the U.S., saying in a meeting with his top aides that he plans to hold “candid talks” with Kim Jong Un to “find an intersecting point between the United States’ call for denuclearization steps and the North’s demand for corresponding steps to guarantee its security and end the hostile relationship,” according to Yonhap News Agency.
“I believe the denuclearization issue can move forward at a rapid rate should the dialogue be resumed and the two leaders sit face to face with each other again,” Moon reportedly added.
On improving inter-Korean relations, Im said in the earlier briefing that this week’s summit would build upon the points of the Panmunjom Declaration, and that the two sides will “discuss the specific direction of development going forward.”
The third point, the “cessation of North-South military tensions and the threat of war,” he continued, would be carried out as a continuation of ongoing military talks to “eliminate the possibility of clashes, and completely set out the conditions for peace.”
He added that the two sides will also discuss solutions to the “agony of separated families.”
Answering a question from a reporter, Im denied that the order of the three agenda items were a reflection of the order in which the points would be written in a hypothetical agreement signed at this week’s summit.
He also said it was difficult to predict if a new Panmunjom Declaration-style agreement will emerge from the talks.
President Moon also seemed to play down any chance of additional agreements, saying Monday he believes this was no longer important and that instead, his focus would be “to fundamentally develop inter-Korean relations while implementing inter-Korean agreements that have been signed so far.”
Moon and Kim will then meet Wednesday morning for a second day of talks, after which Im said it may be possible to announce to the press details and outcomes of the talks up to that point.
Lunch on the second day will take place at Okryugwan in central Pyongyang – a restaurant famous for its cold noodles and which provided catering for the two leaders’ first summit.
Details for the final day dinner banquet were not yet available, though Im said President Moon had personally requested it take place at a restaurant popular among Pyongyang residents.
In what the Blue House has described as an unprecedented development, certain events during the multi-day summit will also be broadcast live on television to an international audience.
Im added that discussions over which events would be allowed to be broadcast live were still ongoing as of Monday.
He also said that Kim Jong Un’s schedule remained a secret, and that besides particular summit meetings planned between Moon and Kim, it was not yet clear whether Kim would attend the welcoming event at the airport and other events.
In a separate development Monday, MHI–NK News learned that no foreign media outlets will be allowed into the DPRK to cover the three-day summit this week, after having been denied access by the North Korean side.
What’s on the agenda for the fifth inter-Korean summit? By Dagyum Ji
South Korea has ambitious plans for this week’s third meeting between Moon and Kim
This week’s third meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un comes at a critical time for Seoul: nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang are at a stalemate, and Moon faces challenges, both domestic and international, to his peninsula policy. It will also serve as a critical test of Moon’s ability.
Sea freight service between N. Korea and Vladivostok to begin Tuesday: Interfax, By Oliver Hotham
Route to be operated by Russia’s InvestStroiTrest company
A new freight shipping service between North Korea’s Rajin Port and Russia’s Vladivostok Port is set to begin Tuesday, the route’s operators told Russian media late last week.
The route will be operated by the InvestStroiTrest company, Interfax reported, and will use the DPRK-flagged 600 ton “Pyuong Hua” ship to run the weekly service.
“We start the process of sea transportation of goods from September 18 from the port of Vladivostok to Rajin,” InvestStroiTrest director Vladimir Baranov was quoted as having said.
“A small steam-ship ‘Pyuong Hua’ ([under] the flag of the DPRK) will be involved,” Baranov added. “It is planned that we will transport flour, meat, vegetable oil on the ship.”
No ship with this name could be found in international shipping records, however, and neither Baranov or InvestStroiTrest Deputy Director General Mikhail Timofeevich Khmel responded to requests for comment from NK News.
News of the new route comes amid increased public discussion of DPRK-Russian economic cooperation in the latter’s Far East.
A North Korean foreign ministry official last Thursday expressed the country’s intention to open a “trading house” in the Russian Far East region of Primorye (Primorsky Krai) to promote trade of domestic goods, according to the official website of the region.
Kim said the DPRK is interested in intensifying trade relations with the Primorsky Territory, and that the new trading house will serve to both promote North Korean products and hold exhibitions.
That meeting also saw DPRK officials point to the construction of a border crossing and a bridge “connecting the stations of Khasan and Tumangang” as further evidence of the two country’s growing ties.
The new shipping route will also not be InvestStroiTrest’s first foray into DPRK-Russia shipping, with the company having previously served as operators of an ill-fated Rajin-Vladivostok cruise line – once set to operate six trips between the two countries per month using the North Korean-owned Mangyongbong ship.
Deputy Director General Khmel at the time told MHI-NK News that the ship had been carrying “animal feed” and insisted he and his colleagues “could not” violate sanctions.
The vessel appears to be still stuck near Vladivostok, having last broadcast its location just outside the port on February 2.
North Korean cargo ship returns to Chinese coal port, By Leo Byrne
Vessel was linked to $250 million rice dispute, owned by North Korean “intelligence agencies”
Another North Korean vessel arrived at a Chinese bulk port Thursday, its third such visit in recent months to the same area which is equipped to handle sanctioned commodities like coal, the NK Pro ship tracker shows.
The visit represents another instance of DPRK ships calling in ports other than Dalian in recent weeks, marking a possible uptick in North Korean-flagged vessel traffic in the region.
The 9750-tonne Kwang Myong arrived and docked at Longkou port on Thursday. Satellite imagery indicates the vessel pulled up at a berth which handles coal, with spoils visible nearby.
The previous visits in May and June were at a different terminal, though satellite photographs show those berths also process coal.
The North Korean-flagged vessel also has a colorful past, and was once involved in a $250 million rice shipping dispute, leading to its arrest and a diplomatic incident back in 2004.
Although it was flagged to Panama at the time, it was registered to Kwang Myong International Shipping Panama, a company whose owners had Korean names.
According to a report from a Singaporean law firm involved in the case, the ship attempted to deliver poor quality coal leading to its Chinese buyer calling for the ship to be impounded.
“We immediately submitted an application to the court for immediately arresting the vessel ‘Kwang Myong’ that was about to leave Shanghai in 3 hours,” the lawyers wrote in 2010.
“However, 24 hours later we were surprised to learn that although the ship was flying a Panamanian flag, it was essentially under the intelligence agencies of the DPRK and the crew members on board were also North Koreans.”
While the dispute occurred long before the existence of the current sanctions regime, the ship may not have moved far from its original owners.
The ship’s current owner is the Pyongyang-based Korea Kwangmyong Shipping, though is located at the same address as its former owner, the less North Korean sounding Si Wan Fung Holding.
While Si Wan Fung Holding no longer operates any vessels, at one time they were also involved with another vessel called the Bright Star (now called the Myong Sin), a vessel which passed through the clutches of well-known sanctions evaders T-Sisters and Baili Shipping and Trading.
According to the UN Panel of Experts (PoE) T-Sisters was connected to Ocean Maritime Management (OMM), a well known DPRK weapon smuggler working under the purview of the country’s Ministry of Land and Marine Transport.
Russia pressured UN panel to alter North Korea sanctions report: Haley, By Hamish Macdonald
Report originally blocked by Russia in August, subsequently released to the UNSC
Russia pressured an independent UN panel into altering a North Korea related sanctions report as it implicated Russian actors in sanctions breaches, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN – Nikki Haley – said in a press release on Thursday.
The interim report, prepared by the Panel of Experts (PoE), was submitted to the UNSC this week after being blocked by Russia in August. Russia disagreed with “certain elements of the report”, Russia’s UN envoy Vassily Nebenzia told media on August 30.
While the report has now been submitted to the UNSC, according to the UN Mission at the UN, it is a version that has been altered under pressure from the Russian Government.
“The report submitted to the Council was not the same independent report that was submitted to the UN’s North Korea sanctions committee last month. This version of the report was amended at the request of Russia,” the press release read.
“In recent weeks, Russia pressured the Panel to alter its independent report, which included sanctions violations implicating Russian actors,” it said, while also criticizing Russia for preventing proposed designations at the UNSC.
Russia, along with China, blocked the U.S.-recommended sanctions designations in the UN against Russia-based entities and vessels.
At the time Russia’s UN mission spokesperson Fyodor Strzhizhovsky called the recommendations “unjustified” and “unilaterally applied,” TASS reported. The entities were designated by the U.S. Department of the Treasury a week earlier on August 21.
In quotes attributed directly to Haley in the press release, the Ambassador to the UN also criticized the PoE.
“Russia can’t be allowed to edit and obstruct independent UN reports on North Korea sanctions just because they don’t like what they say. Period. We’re disappointed in the Panel for caving to Russian pressure and making changes to what should be an independent report,” Haley was quoted as saying.
“This is a dangerous precedent and a stain on the important work of the Panel,” she added, while also urging the PoE to release the original report.
On Thursday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury designated one Russian and one Chinese entity it said were actually under North Korean management and control.
The two companies, Russia-based Volasys Silver Star and its China-based sister company Yanbian Silverstar Network Technology Co., Ltd, are IT companies designated for their involvement in the export of DPRK labor and for operating in the North Korean IT industry.
The Chinese based entity has direct links to North Korea’s defense and WMD industry, the Treasury said.
Vladivostok’s Eastern Economic Forum: what progress on North Korea? By Anthony V. Rinna
Last week’s event saw talk of economic cooperation, trilateral projects, and sanctions relief
Underscoring its desire for increased economic participation in East Asia, North Korea made a debut appearance at this year’s Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia.
Representing the DPRK was former ambassador to Russia Kim Yong Jae, who currently heads the Ministry of External Economic Relations.
Kim Yong Jae’s sideline chats with senior Russian figures reflected the duality of Moscow’s policies toward the DPRK. On the one hand, North Korea is important for Russia’s broader Asian strategy, which includes re-asserting the modern Russian Federation as a Pacific power. On the other, ties with the DPRK are crucial for Russia’s strategic vision of developing its Far East.
Kim met with Russia’s deputy foreign minister Igor Morgulov as well as Alexander Kozlov, Russia’s recently-appointed minister of Far East development. During Kim Young Jae’s meeting with Russian officials, the North Korean and Russian governments discussed bilateral economic cooperation.
Morgulov reported that the atmosphere of the talks on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum was positive.
Speculation that Kim Jong Un may attend the Eastern Economic Forum arose earlier this summer, particularly in light of Vladimir Putin’s invitation to Kim Jong Un to visit Russia.